Autumn Music Mix

Here’s a short mix of some of my favorite music that feels like Autumn to me. I’ve strayed from the theme in some places so it’s not all just wispy vocals and acoustic guitars, although there’s some of that too.

Here I Am by Adam Green and Binki Shapiro

This isn’t just a good autumnal song, it’s a five-star perfect song in my book. It has so many things I love: boy-girl vocals, a counterpoint-esque chorus, and the original version (not the live version below) opens with a gorgeous Beach Boys style harmony featuring overlapping vocals of Binki Shapiro who is amazing (and who is also in the band Little Joy, who was on my summer mix).

Requiem for a Witch by Gloria

Anything with the word “witch” in it is going to seem autumnal. You don’t think of witches on jet skis and shit. Add to that the crisp steel-string acoustic guitar sound and their pretty harmonies and you have a great fall song from my favorite French band.

A New Beginning by Wolfie’s Just Fine

In Friday the 13th, A New Beginning which came out in 1985, there is an extended nude scene with a girl right before the killer stabs her in the eyes with garden shears. Here’s the original death scene (not safe for work—and it’s in French because that’s the only clip I could find).

This song is about a young boy in the mid 80s seeing this and seeing sex and death all mixed up together when he may have had little exposure to either of that before, and the weird mindfuck that was for him.

The video is great. They do a really good job re-enacting the movie.

Yes, Friday the 13th takes place at a summer camp, but it’s still a movie that belongs to the fall and the spooky season..

We Could Walk Together by The Clientele

In a previous post I called The Clientele the greatest autumn band of all time. 95% of their songs would fit on this list. Here is one of their earliest.

Ooh Yah Yah Yah by Sweet Spirit

I love this song, but it doesn’t remind me of fall. However, the video does. I’m a big proponent of renting a house in the woods and staying their with friends for a long weekend once the weather turns cold. After the summer and before skiing/snowboarding season is usually a cheap time to do it. This video reminds me of that sort of thing. Everyone together in a house or sitting around a fire-pit in the chilly night air. That’s my scene.

Monday Morning, Somewhere Central by Ultimate Painting

Ultimate Painting were around for three years and put out three albums and then broke up. In those three albums is a lot of 60s inspired, autumnal music. This is one of my favorites from their album, Dusk.

The Duality of Advanced Preparation

A couple announcements before I get into the post.

First, this is the last post before my fall break. Regular posting will return on Friday the 19th. There may be some music up this weekend.

Second, if you want the upcoming book and you haven’t ordered it yet, you have a couple weeks left to do so. I’m ordering the exact amount that I need. And while the publishing company will generally print a small percentage more than you ask for as “overage,” I can’t guarantee that, so no more copies will be publicly for sale after the end of this month. You can order here if you want.

Third, if you’re supporting Season 3, the autumn issue of X-Communication will be in your email boxes on the 19th.


This is not a post about fire wallets, but I’m going to start by talking about fire wallets.

This is an anecdote I’ve thought about including in various posts over the years, but I’ve hesitated because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of people that I know. However, I thought of it again in relation to Monday’s post and I decided it’s something we can all benefit from thinking about.

In NYC there are some magicians—some you might even know—who will be hanging out at a bar and they’ll go up to order a drink and stand next to an attractive girl and pull out a fire-wallet and light it up as they go to pay. One of the guys I know who does this acts really cool about it and just lets it burn without commenting on it. The other acts like he’s surprised, “Ah, what the hell is that!” Either way it gets a brie shocked reaction, followed by a couple laughs.

I’ve witnessed this in person easily a couple dozen times. And 100% of the time there is a moment after fire-wallet guy leaves, or when people have peeled off into their own conversations where one of these women will say something to the effect of, “What’s the deal with this goofball and his wallet with the fire?” Sometimes they say it that bluntly, sometimes it’s more like, “So… your friend is…uhm, interesting.”

They’re confused. But not like, “How did he do that?” But like, “Why did he do that?”

They have this sort of look to them.

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I have to be honest, I’m not sure what reaction the fire wallet guys are hoping to get. It does make these women pay attention to them, at least briefly, because they’re blasting fire around their face. And I’ve even seen them occasionally transition from the fire wallet to having a genuine interaction with someone, but it always feels to me like they had to dig themselves out of a hole in order to get to that point. As a way to engage with people, the fire wallet always felt to me a few steps removed from walking up to someone and vomiting on them. Yes, now they have to talk to you, and maybe you could even win them over, but surely it would have been easier just to say, “Hi,” right?

I know I’ll get disagreements on this. People will tell me spectators love the fire wallet. Maybe in context, in a professional performance. But done casually I can almost guarantee that you’re hearing what you hope to hear. Yes, there will be a reaction (because there’s fire involved) but what is it you think people are taking away from it?

It’s not a trick… I mean, if it is a trick, it’s literally the worst trick you could accomplish. It would be like an ironic punishment in an O’Henry story. “Oh, Great Genie, I wish for magical powers!”

“Okay. I will give you the power to set your own wallet on fire!"

“What? Oh fuck. No! Please! Don’t! I’m sorry!”

And if it’s not supposed to be magical, but just meant to be some neat special effect, then, in a social situation, you’re the guy who’s carrying around a wallet that lights on fire to get people to pay attention to him. That’s… not a good look.

This is one half of the duality of Advanced Preparation.

For the social magician, performing in a casual environment, for people he or she just met, concrete signs of advanced preparation will undermine the experience you’re trying to create with your magic.

I once watched a friend perform the brass block penetration trick, the one where you stick a match through a hole in the center of a matchbox, and everyone is like “so what?” then you open the matchbox to show that it’s completely filled with a solid brass block. It got a perfectly fine reaction, and then one of the people watching said, “So… you carry around a little brass block with you?” And you could just hear the slide-whistle of sadness suck the air out of him.

Here’s the thing, the person who said that wasn’t trying to be a jerk. But when people are out in a social situation, they want to be a part of spontaneous, organic interactions. They don’t want to be the target of this thing you were planning at home to spring on whoever happened to be at the bar that night in order to hopefully make yourself look good. Even if they really enjoy the trick, the fact that you walked in that night with the intention of showing it to whoever you bumped into, takes what could be a special moment and turns it generic.

I’m not saying don’t show people magic, and I’m not saying don’t actually do some advanced preparation. Here’s the kind of ironic thing in regards to the fire wallet thing. When I would hang around the people afterwards, someone would inevitably say something like, “Soooo… does your wallet shoot fire too?” I’d be all like, “Ah, no. He’s a good guy, actually. I don’t know what the deal is with the wallet schtick. But yes, I do some magic too. That’s how we know each other.”

“Do you have something to show me?” they might ask.

I’d pat my pockets. “Ehh… nah, not really. I didn’t bring anything. Actually…,” I’d say, and finish the drink from the bottle I was holding, “let’s try this.” I’d then take a bottle cap from the bar, show that it wouldn’t fit in the top, and then melt it through so it was inside the bottle. “Hey, there you go. Magic.” I’d say, and smack the bottle on the table. I’d really underplay it, and immediately bring the subject back to something about them. Meanwhile they’re flipping out and trying to pull me back to live in the moment a little longer. “Wait, wait, wait. What is going on?” And they’re lifting up the bottle and alternating between staring at it and staring at me. And when I slide the bottle off to the side, to be taken away by the bartender. They again have to pause and take in the moment. “You’re just going to let him take that?”

Now, the truth is, that trick requires much more advanced preparation than throwing a fire wallet in your back pocket, but that’s not how it feels to the people who see it. And that is its strength. If I had walked in with a Coca Cola bottle that I brought with me. “Hey, have you seen these weird new cola bottles they have at the store down the street?” I suspect the response would be about 30% as intense. Yes, it would be the identical trick, but a completely different feel for the spectator because the way I perform it there are no outward signs of advanced preparation. (Yes, the fact that I have the ability at all to do this would suggest that it’s something I’ve practiced in the past, but that’s a much subtler suggestion of preparation than coming in with my own props or some heavily scripted patter.)

This is one of the reasons I’m much more of a coffee shop performer than I am a bar performer. At a cafe you have, I think, many more options for items you might have with you, without it feeling like you’re setting the other person up. Normal people do bring their work or hobbies to the cafe. So it’s not unheard of that in my laptop bag I might have some books or some other objects to use as hooks. Even a deck of cards can be a “normal” object that you might have on you for various reasons. Whereas if you bring it into a bar it’s like, “Oh, I guess this guy planned to show people card tricks tonight.”

But this post is about the duality of advanced preparation. I think most people will agree with what I’ve written above. Maybe they hadn’t put much thought into it, but it makes sense. Yes, just because some object fits in your pocket, doesn’t mean it’s natural to try and pull out in casual situations.

But something else to consider is the flip-side of advanced preparation, which is this: When it comes to performing for friends, family and other people who are close to you, you will often want to emphasize the preparation that has gone into what you’re about to show them. In fact, you’ll often want to fabricate it for them even when it doesn’t exist.

Certainly you’ll still want to perform seemingly spontaneous moments of magic. But you can also make a person feel special and give some weight to an experience by implying you’ve put in some effort and planning so you can do something specifically for them.

Examples:

  1. I send you an email a month before I visit to say I have this trick I’ve been working on that I can’t wait to show you.

  2. I send you a text asking if you can stop by a couple nights from now. “I have this thing I want to try out, but I need someone with your disposition to make it work.”

  3. I pick you up for a weekend getaway. I’ve found the hotel and planned our meals, but the primary purpose of the mini-vacation is because the place we’re going is on a latitude that I think will allow for this weird experience where I’ll be able to control your dreams.

Or whatever.

The duality (and dichotomy) of advanced preparation is that—when performing for strangers—it minimizes their role in what’s going on (i.e. “well, he was set to show this to anyone he happened to meet tonight”). But—when performing for friends and family—it can emphasize their role in the effect and their importance to the experience.

The most obvious analogue is romance. Imagine your spectator is the object of your affections. If you just met, they would want to feel like they’re having a genuine, organic interaction, not that you’ve come in with a bunch of pre-planned lines that you were going to deliver to whoever was standing at the bar that night. But, once you’ve been together a while, not only are the spontaneous moments of affection appreciated, but so are the ones you’ve obviously put effort into preparing specifically for them.


Bye, my loves. See you next Friday.

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A Critical Examination of Pens that Shoot Little Balls of Fire

Uh-oh, looks like we’ve got a little controversy brewing. SansMinds is releasing a sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire. And Ellusionist is also releasing a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire. And, apparently another guy who runs a place called House of Fire has been selling a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire for a while now.

It’s certainly a problem trying to sort all this out. By that I mean the legal or ethical issues in regards to intellectual property and which of these companies you support.

But I’m not here to talk about those problems.

I’m here to talk about the bigger problem which is the fact that this sort of thing looks fucking ridiculous.

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I know that’s just a gif and there’s no sound so if you really want to enjoy the real-world experience of this, make a gentle “pffft” sound between your teeth and lips to really experience the savage power of this fireball!

What exactly is the reaction you expect this to garner other than an incredulous, “You spent money on a Sharpie that shoots a little ball of fire? Isn’t there a foodbank in your area you could have donated to?” There’s nothing magical about this. The best response you could hope for is, “Neat. Do it again.” To which you’d have to reply, “Uh.. yeah sure, okay. Uhm… can you be a dear and hold on for a minute while I cram some flash cotton and flash paper into this hole in my Sharpie?”

Ellusionist is much smarter than SansMinds. In their trailer, which is over a minute, they don’t show a single unedited clip of their Pyro Pen in action. They don’t want you to see how underwhelming it is in real life. Instead, every clip is slowed down to the point where it seems you’re going to be shooting an impressive stream of fire. You’re not. Ellusionist is on a big pre-sale kick for this right now. They have to be. They know that once this is out in the wild and people see what it actually looks like, their sales will pop and fizzle like… well, like the little nugget of fire this marker ejects.

Here’s the thing, when you perform magic you can choose to come off as someone with supernatural powers, or you can try to come off as just a normal person who has learned some interesting or mysterious things. Whether you’re going for all-powerful entity or normal guy who knows some cool stuff, a sharpie that shoots a dollop of fire is not helping you. Instead of “powerful” or “normal’ you come off as “a guy who’s desperate for people to acknowledge his presence so he bought a little trick marker.”

“Ah, but Andy, fire gets people’s attention.” Yeah, so does screaming the N-word or taking a shit on the floor. Getting people’s attention isn’t difficult. Doing it in a way that doesn’t make you look desperate is the key. Look, if at any moment you could casually look around and shoot a stream of fire from the palm of your empty hand, that would be cool. It would seem incredible. But these sort of half-measures—where you have a big bulky wristband or a gimmicked marker shooting off little pops of fire—they’re not going to get you the reaction you’re hoping for.

That being said, I do appreciate that Ellusionist has their typical sterling ad copy to go along with this…

If James Bond were real, this is the kind of pen he'd have stuffed in the top pocket of his bulletproof suit.

Ah yes, in fact I hear he actually does carry around this pen in the next Bond movie… James Bond: Involuntary Celibate. Seriously, Ellusionist, have you never seen a James Bond movie? He doesn’t use joy-buzzers and a squirting corsage to take down the enemy. Admittedly, that would make a cool movie. An owner of a prank shop who has to use the items in his store to take on the men who have kidnapped his daughter or something? I may have to write that.

In response to SansMinds pen, Ellusionist writes this in their ad:

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“Many will imitate Pyro, some will even try to sell off our back through their product naming tactics... but there's no mistaking originality, quality or presence. [Ed. Note: Presence? WTF?]

Coca-cola needs store brand cola to show people why it's #1. [It does?] In that same vein, Ellusionist vows to pursue the quality and safety of it's [its] innovations for decades to come... no expense spared.

As the old saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Yeah, that’s not what that “old saying” means. If it was about the quality of goods you receive, then paying peanuts and getting monkeys would be a great deal for the guy who gets monkeys. The saying applies to employers (not customers). It means that if you don’t offer a good salary, you’ll get poor workers. It has nothing to do with what the person is writing about in the ad. (Other than the fact that Ellusionist is unwilling to pay someone to write their ad-copy and, in turn, they get this junk cranked out by one of their in-house monkeys.)

They also write:

The PYRO Pen itself has been designed to contour to your palm like any other marker…

Ah, yes, just what I look for in a marker: that it contours to my palm. “Like any other marker”? Hey, Ellusionist, you know how markers work, right? Your palm shouldn’t be involved. Although that does explain something about who is writing their ad copy. I’ve always thought, “This seems like it was written by a dumb child or a smart gorilla.” And those are the only groups that hold writing implements in the palms of their hands.

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Gardyloo #76

An update about the next testing session in November. We’ve decided that the bulk of our next session is going to look at controls. I think this will be a good companion to the testing on forcing we did last year. As of now, I’m not sure what controls we’ll test, and I’m really not sure how we’re going to test them. By that I mean, I don’t know in what context the focus groups will see the controls and then what the question(s) we will ask will be in order to quantify the strength of a control. We’ve got some time to figure it out.

It’s probably going to have to be something that’s done in a fairly open way. Meaning we’ll probably need to tell people what we’re looking at. Here’s why. If there were only two controls in the world, then we could do a trick for 25 people using one control, and the same trick for 25 different people using the other control. Then we could see if there’s any significant difference in the way the two groups rated the trick. In that way we could hide what we are testing in a trick.

But if we wanted to test 6 different controls that way, we’d either need a lot more people (and a lot more time and money) or each group that saw the trick with a specific control we’re testing would have to be much smaller. And with a smaller group, 1 or 2 outliers can throw things off to the point where the data is meaningless.

So we’ll probably have to say something like, “People often assume a magician can control their card in some way once it’s been returned to the deck. We’re going to have you take a card and return it to the deck in a few different ways and we want you to rate on a scale of 1-100 how fair it seems and how confident you are that the card is truly lost.” Or words to that effect. Now that I think of it, there may end up being no control that makes them feel particularly confident the magician doesn’t know where the card is. We’ll see.


From an email I received from reader E.C.,

“As a full-time pro I feel like I need to establish my expertise with my tools (cards, coins, etc.) early on when I perform. However, I also perform quite a bit socially and I had a chance put what you wrote about in your Inexpert Card Technique post to the test recently. I was performing Chad Long’s Now Look Here at a gathering with some of my brother’s friends. I’ve performed this trick literally 1000s of times as it’s a mainstay in my professional performing repertoire. With that many repetitions I could do the trick in my sleep and my handling of the deck is very ‘smooth.’ I decided for this performance to take a page from your playbook and handle the deck as if I was a neophyte. I’ve always had really good reactions to that trick, but this time they were so far beyond the typical response I get. While I probably won’t incorporate that handling in my professional work, I plan to keep it up in future social performances. I just wanted to chime in with another data point to support your theory.”

This doesn’t surprise me. Now Look Here is a trick where cards are bouncing all around and changing to different cards. If your handling going into the trick is very slick, that gives them a partial explanation for what is happening. But if you handle cards like a normal doofus they have no good explanation for what is going on.


A little over a year ago, I created a fake blog and had it populated with material by friend-of-the site, Joe Mckay. The idea was to use this as a resource so I could plant fake stories in there when I needed them for specific presentational purposes. There are a couple that remain there permanently, like this one which is pretty much perfect justification for the “why do I have to write something down” question relating to mind-reading. And this one which sets the table for the trick at the bottom of this post.

There are also many other potential premises in the real stories that are posted on that site.

A couple people have written to ask why that site isn’t being updated. Well, the answer is that it doesn’t need to be. Any new fake stories I have to add (and I have a few) can be back-dated so they appear in the midst of the run. And the truth is, there is nothing more normal in the world than an abandoned blog.

The only thing more normal is a blog that was abandoned for 8 months, then there’s a post that says “I haven’t forgotten you! Life has been busy with other stuff, but I’m back to regular posting here!” And then there’s nothing after that post in the subsequent two years.

But yeah, as a resource, an abandoned blog is just as good as an active one. And if any supporters of this site want a story planted for something they’re working, they just need to write it up and send it to me.


There’s a site called Cameo where you can get celebrities to record personalized videos for you and your loved ones. And by “celebrities” I mean, like, Bret the Hitman Hart and Chumlee from Pawn Stars.

There’s also a section for Magicians. So if you want Patrick Kun, Morgan Strebler, or Murray Sawchuck to say something to you, well your prayers have been answered.

Morgan Strebler’s page is odd. In one of his promo videos he says he’ll do a trick for you in the videos you purchase, then in the description at the top of his page he says, “I can’t perform magic tricks in the videos. Sorry.” Uh, what? Why would I buy a video from a magician if he can’t do a little magic in the video? What am I paying for then? I can’t jack-off to it (I promise, I tried). So what am I going to do with a video of Morgan not doing a trick?

Murray Sawchuck will actually teach you a trick, as you can see from the example videos on his page. It won’t be a good trick, but it’s something. Perhaps we can pay Murray to do a follow-up to the video where he pretends to do a trick for a homeless guy.

What should we do with Patrick Kun? I feel like we should make a series of video requests, and each one is just slightly more debauched than the last. Like first we’re just getting him to undo his shirt buttons a little more each time. Then we’re like, “You should drink a beer before you shoot the video, loosen yourself up.” And we do, like, 100 video requests. And each one just makes him slightly uncomfortable, but nothing too significant. But by video 100 he’s high on amyl nitrate poppers and engaging in hardcore gay sex on camera. And we’ve got enough footage to make a film! Cut to, 5 years later, he’s sobered up and he’s walking down the street in Greenwich Village and he passes a sex shop and sees a porn DVD in the window with his image on it that he has zero recollection of ever filming. Yeah, let’s do that. It’ll be funny!

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Rock the Sure Shot

This isn’t the type of trick I do anymore, and it likely would have rotted in my notebooks from 5-10 years ago if I hadn’t been reminded of it by a recent email. It’s a little too “look what I can do,” for my current style. But it may fit your style. And I think it could probably work well in a formal show. “Look what I can do” is appropriate for a professional performance, because presumably that’s what they’re there for: to see what you can do.

So, while I’ve only ever done this at home or at work, in a casual situation, I’ll describe it as a stage piece. I’m just making up this “script” as I write. When I performed the effect in real life there wasn’t much of a script.

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On stage there is a small table with a stack of printer paper and a cloth bag.

You pick up one of the sheets of paper and give it a glance. “These are some of the TPS reports from my old day-job.” You look over the paper a little bit and cluck your tongue against the roof of your mouth. “This is not… looking… too…good,” you mumble, essentially to yourself. “Well, screw it,” you say, snapping into presentation mode. You crumple up the piece of paper and toss it into the crowd and maybe have it tossed to a few more people.

“I spent years looking over those reports. Years of my life. Years of my life at a job that… well… I can’t say I hated it. It was a job I had no feelings about whatsoever. If I hated it, maybe I’d have left much sooner than I did. Or at the very least, I’d have some memories of the time I spent there. Instead it’s just like, ‘Huh? I worked where? Oh yeah, that’s right. For like a decade. I vaguely remember.’”

You ask the person who now has the paper ball to come on stage.

“I knew it was time to leave and pursue my dream of becoming a performer because I was getting too good at work. Let me clarify. I wasn’t too good at my job. I was getting too good at something I was doing to avoid my job while I was at work. I was getting too good… at waste paper basketball,” you say, and mime a jump-shot. As you do, a small metal trash can slides in from off-stage.

“I was a prodigy. I was an office sensation. I organized tournaments with cash prizes that 100s of people participated in. That company may have taken years from me, but I took 1000s of man-hours from it.”

“I’ll tell you my secret. What made me so good wasn’t because I could always hit the shot. What made me the best was I got good at reading everyone else’s abilities. Abnormally good at it. And if I sensed I found a good player who was bound to have a hot hand that day, I’d just avoid playing him or her until I sensed they had cooled off a bit. The cowards way out. But it worked.”

“I feel like I’ve got you sized up,” you say. “I’m going to make a quick prediction.” You turn your back briefly and write something on one of the sheets of paper, fold it and place it somewhere. You also do something with the contents of the small bag that’s on the table. As you do this, you say: “I’m going to have you take 5 shots at the basket. I’m going to tilt things in my favor a bit by having you wear this around your neck, which should throw off your balance just a little in a way I think will help me.”

The audience sees that the cloth bag is actually hanging on a loop of thin rope which you put around the spectator’s head, like a necklace. The bag is about the size of a baseball and there is something of some weight in it.

The audience member takes five shots with five different paper balls. You make a big deal of letting them choose the order in which they take the balls and shoot them. Let’s say they make two of the shots.

You open your prediction and reveal that it says, “You will make two out of five shots.”

“See?” you say. “I knew it the moment I saw you. You’re clearly no athlete. More of a book guy, I’m guessing. Two out of five. It was clear as day.”

“But maybe it was a lucky guess. It wasn’t, but maybe it seems like it could have been. I’ll show you something that couldn’t be a guess on my part. Something that could only be emblematic of my mastery of this game down to the inch.”

You ask the audience member to take any two of the three paper balls remaining on the floor and toss them in the trash can, leaving just one final ball on the floor. You hand a fabric measuring tape to the spectator and have them measure how many inches the ball is from the can. It’s 16 inches.

“I couldn’t have known you’d get two out of five in the basket. I couldn’t have known which two of the three that you missed you’d toss in the basket when given the choice. I couldn’t have known that particular ball would remain on the floor. And I certainly couldn’t have known how far one random ball out of five would end up from a trash can after you threw it. But… [pause] but you see, I had this job once. A job that didn’t really suck my soul, but it did suck away a lot of the years of my life. Which may be just as bad. And I became very good at this game as a byproduct of avoiding that job. So good, in fact, I could foresee any matter of chance or decision related to the game. Can you remove the bag from around your neck and dump the contents into my hands?”

The audience member does that, and into your hands falls a retractable metal tape measure.

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“Before you even took your shots I made a prediction on this tape measure. [You show a marker and put it back in your pocket.] On a specific portion of the tape that is now safely wound up inside.”

You slide out the measuring tape and right on the 16 inch mark is a big black X written in marker.

You grab a paper ball and walk the audience member part-way back to his seat. “Thanks for your help. Everyone give Chris a big round of applause,” you say and toss the paper ball in your hands behind you and over your head where it travels 25 feet, right into the trash can.

Method

The primary method I was using when doing this informally is a trick called Heightened Senses by Joshua Jay. It’s on a couple of his DVDs including his Methods in Magic DVD which seems to be sold out in most places, but you can get the download here for $20 (it’s well worth it, everything on the DVD is good). If I remember correctly, Josh uses it to predict a random spectator’s height. Since I perform for people I know, I realized that would be somewhat less than impressive.

But I still loved the method and would use it as a way to predict the length of—or distance between—other things. I started using it with backyard games like horseshoes and bocce ball. And that morphed into doing it with paper balls and a wastepaper basket.

When doing it with paper balls and a trash can, I think the sweet spot is to be about 15-20 feet from the can. You don’t want them to easily make every shot, but you don’t want them to have misses that are 20 feet away from the can either.

The initial prediction—how many they get in the basket—is any kind of one in six out you want to use. I just used an index and a switch when I was doing it close-up. If you’re doing it on stage, obviously you’ll want something bigger. You could do something more complicated and predict which shots they hit, but I never bothered with that. I don’t mind if that first prediction is underwhelming.

Something appeals to me about predicting the layout of missed waste paper basketball shots. It’s fun but also clearly impossible. And it’s an example of an Unknown Personal, which I feel make for the strongest types of prediction effects.

I think Joshua Jay’s effect is good for a parlor type setting or a small stage show where the audience is pretty close. For a larger-scale show (something big enough to have a projection screen) you could have the person toss five different colored paper balls. Maybe have them do it over their head, facing away from the can, so they’re more spread out. Then an overhead camera shot shows the distribution of the different colored balls around the basket. And then you could reveal you predicted the exact layout of the balls with a clear prediction case or a letter you mailed to the CEO of the company or whatever.

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The last part of the effect I’ve never actually done. I just thought it would be cool to end the trick with an impossible seeming shot. There has to be some way to rig that up to make it work. In an actual proper show, I mean. Maybe with some kind of reel, or some variation on the type of set-up you use to make a handkerchief fly across the stage. The difficult thing would be getting the trajectory to look natural. But if you’re more of a magician than a mentalist it wouldn’t be an issue if the ball looked like it was “magically” floating into the can. In fact, if you’re a magician and don’t do strict mentalism, the better way to go with it might be to legitimately toss the ball over your shoulder and try and get as close to the can as possible. Then, when you (likely) miss, you point at the ball with the index and middle finger of one hand and give a gesture like, “get in there,” and the ball jumps from where it is into the can.

A Love Letter to the Best Deal In Magic

If you’re looking for value for your money, there is one purchase that is far and away the best deal in magic today. And that is a digital subscription to Genii magazine for $35.

I know your first thought is: Ah, I never thought I’d see it. Andy sold out. Branded content on the Jerx Blog. Sad.

No, this is a genuine recommendation, not an ad. Richard Kaufman doesn’t even like me. He once talked about suing me when I had my old blog because I repurposed some of his old disco-daddy illustrations of himself from the first year of Apocalypse to make a comic strip about how to seduce women. (“Scrub your dong with an anti-microbial soap to make it palatable to even the pickiest of ladies.” “Be generous when portioning out cocaine for your partner.” “Offer her a choice of cock-rings so the lovemaking experience feels personalized to her.” “If none of that works, smack a bitch upside the head.”)

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You might say: Well, $35 for 12 issues of a magazine seems like a good deal, but not quite “the best deal in magic.”

But here’s the thing, you don’t just get the next 12 issues, you get all the back issues too. All 80+ years of them. And you get all the 300 back issues of MAGIC magazine as well. It’s a goldmine. Or, at the very least, a mine with some gold in it.

Do the math. Just looking at the tricks alone. Let’s say we have 1200 issues here. We’ll underestimate it at 5 tricks per issue. That’s 6000 tricks. Even if we say half are garbage. 30% are okay. 15% are good. And only 5% are great. That’s 300 great tricks for $35.00. That’s 12 cents a trick!

Of course, it’s only a good deal if you enjoy the process of digging through those 1200 back issues. Obviously if that doesn’t appeal to you then it’s not a good deal at any price.

You might wonder why I’m telling you about Genii. Surely everyone already knows about it. Well, no. My audience is about 60% hardcore magic guys, and probably 40% younger people, or people who’ve always had an interest in magic but didn’t get into the more traditional style. These people, oftentimes, are too young or removed from the magic scene to have gone to a magic store and come across a magic magazine. And it’s for them I’m trying to highlight what a good deal this is.

My friend gets me a subscription every year for my birthday and it’s truly almost overwhelming how much content there is. At one point I had this brief notion that I would start-up a small sister-site where we’d go through the entire run of Genii magazine, looking at a different issue each week and discussing it, like a mini-book club. Then I realized it would take 20 years to do that. (And another 4 years after that to do the issues that had come out during those 20 years.)

So where do you start with all this if you’re new to it? I don’t know. Next year, my plan is to start with issue one and work my way through. It will take a few years even if I go through one issue a day. That’s probably a little too much if you’re not really interested in this sort of thing.

I’m not suggesting anyone go in and read every word. A lot of it doesn’t hold up and, in fact, wasn’t very interesting at the time. Recaps of magic conventions are only worth it when there’s some controversy that accompanies them. A lot of the profiles on magicians are kind of dull. My favorite parts are essentially everything outside of the main articles. I like the ads, the letters to the editor, the reviews, and the trick sections.

The columnists can be hit and miss, but finding the ones that speak to you is part of the fun. I remember enjoying the Gary Ouellet column that used to be on the last page in Genii. I was a big fan of the Harkey For A Year column (and, frankly, any of Harkey’s ideas that were put into print I found interesting to think about, even if I didn’t perform a ton of them). Michael Close’s reviews in MAGIC set the standard for reviews in a magic magazine. Bob Farmer’s columns in both MAGIC and Genii were always worthwhile. And Max Maven’s column in MAGIC was another favorite of mine. (I still fondly remember when he openly questioned why professionals are expected to hang out with amateurs at magic conventions, or just in magic in general. Oh, sweet, beautiful, stupid, Max… what was the response you thought you’d get with this column? Actually he probably got the exact response he was expecting: a bunch of angry magic nerds. You can follow that whole ordeal here. As an amateur myself, and someone who would generally prefer to spend time with an assistant manager at Long John Silvers than a professional magician, I have zero issue with the point Max was making. The only disagreement I have with his column is the notion that, “this is how things are done in the circus” is a compelling argument for anything. Ah, yes… what could be more vibrant and thriving than circus culture! Let’s emulate that.)

Now, younger guys will undoubtedly find a lot of what they read in the magazine confusing. “Why does it look like some of Genii was being written on a typewriter well into the late 80s?” “Why was a single magic VHS $90?” “Are these people genuinely pissed off because Genii had a cartoon image of the devil on the 666th issue?” Spoiler: They were. 

One of the fun things about going back and reading the magazines is to watch the trends come and go, both the trends within magic and general societal trends (of which magicians are consistently about 10 years behind).

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“Wow, sweet! Totally 80s, my man! Looks like we got ourselves a Motley Crue fan here! Take that, Reagan!”

No, no. This is an ad from 1992.

For me, peek-magic-magazine time was the early to mid 90s. That’s when MAGIC Magazine had arrived on the scene, so Genii had to step up their game. They were like, “Huh? We actually have to create a cover for each issue? We can’t just use that same depressing graphic in a different color with a black and white promo shot slotted in there?”

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The quality of MAGIC Magazine was immediately so much better and it took a long time for Genii to catch up. They didn’t really even get close until Kaufman took over in the late 90s. 

If you’re under 35 it will probably be hard to wrap your head around the importance of a magic magazine in the early-mid 90s. If you wanted to know what the current goings-on were in magic, that was really your only option. Email and the Internet were still in their nascent stages. So you would just sit with that magazine for four full weeks, digesting every page multiple times (at least, that was true for me). What was your other option? Go to the library and check out that one Bill Tarr book for the 40th time? It was a different world. We jacked off to aerobics shows. We were starved for content. 

And yet, I definitely have a warm feeling for those days. The effects I write about here are often about slowing down the pace of an interaction. And part of me likes the slow pace of those days with just a monthly magazine to connect you to the modern magic world. I suspect something that will seem ridiculous to the younger generation is that an article would come out and a reader would have something to say about it, and he’d write a fucking letter on paper and send it into the magazine. They’d run that letter 2-3 months after the original article had come out. Then someone would respond to that letter and that would run another 2 months later. An interaction that would have happened in 8 minutes over twitter took half a year.

Now, I understand a lot of people won’t find reading 20 years of Hank Lee ads all that compelling. For them it will all come down to the tricks. And, as I said earlier, there is enough value in the tricks alone to make this worth your while. You’ll have to do some digging for them, but you can find tricks that are just as good as an instant download you’d pay $15 for on its own. In fact, a lot of the tricks that were originally printed in Genii and MAGIC did go on to be proper releases on their own. Again, for the younger guys, keep this in mind: It’s 1992 and you’ve come up with this great trick. What are you going to do with it? Wait 30 years until you have enough material to write a book? You can’t film a video of it on your phone and send it to Penguin to market it for you. Putting an ad in the magazines and selling it yourself is a gigantic pain in the ass. So you send it off to one of the magazines to publish and you get your 15 minutes of fame. Ok, it’s more like 4 minutes of mild notoriety, but still, it’s something. So don’t feel like you’re getting the dregs, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. (My favorite trick “section” is Joshua Jay’s 12-year run in MAGIC Magazine, which is, admittedly, a pretty basic bitch opinion to have, but there really is a lot of good stuff there.)

Here’s where you can purchase a digital subscription.

I would say, “Tell them Andy at The Jerx sent you,” but that’s probably a bad idea. I don’t want Kaufman to get all bugged out that I misappropriated his illustrations again. So let’s just keep it between us.

“Byeeeeeee!”

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Gardyloo #75

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My pal, Marc Kerstein, has released a new ebook called “Tricks With Your Phone.” Which is a really weird title because it’s a collection of thimble magic. What the F? No… it’s not. I’m just pulling your little dingus. Actually, the book looks at a new feature in the most recent iOS for iPhone and its uses for a number of different types of effects (with the potential for countless more). If you have an iPhone and if you’re at all into the idea of doing magic with it, I’m going to recommend you pick this up. My recommendation isn’t based on me having gone out and performed the tricks from the book and receiving great reactions. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet. My recommendation is based on the potential I see with this product to truly benefit from the hive mind of a lot of magicians thinking in concert.

The book presents some tricks and also some fundamentals on how this new feature can be used for other effects. And purchasers will gain access to a facebook group which should beget a bunch of new tricks because the possibilities are somewhat endless with this new feature. And Marc has the technical know-how to shepherd any good ideas that come up in the facebook group to fruition.

You can see the description of the effects included on the product page here.

This isn’t an advertisement. I’m posting about this for my benefit. The next month and a half I’m going to be enveloped in the fog of finalizing Book 2, but when I come out of it, I’m hoping to find that the collective wisdom of a bunch of magicians has come up with a lot of fun ideas for me to play around with. (I’m not holding my breath on this. It’s just my hope.)


Maybe it’s just because I’m a hardcore move-monkey, but for me, the coolest card technique of all time—and I’ve been saying this for years—it’s gotta be the Biddle grip, baby!


Reader M.K., directed by to Helder Guimaraes’ website and suggested I scroll down to the “past shows” section.

Here’s the info about his show, “Nothing to Hide.”

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“In 2012, Helder Guimaraes premiered his show Nothing To Hide at the Geffen Playhouse, directed by Neil Patrick Harris. The show was critically acclaimed and ended up Off-Broadway, at the Signature Theater, playing a sold-out limited run of four months.”

Hmmmm…. I feel like there’s something missing in the description of this show. Like some element that Helder is forgetting to mention. What is it… what is it… what is it…? There’s something, but it’s slipping my mind. I saw the show, I should remember what it was. It wasn’t like… a talking dog or something was it? What am I thinking of?

Wait… let me try and really search my memories of the show…

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Nope. I guess I was just misremembering.

Well, one thing I do remember about Helder’s show, Nothing to Hide, is that it was great. I’d put it up there with all of my favorite shows I’ve seen: Teller, Siegfried, Pendragon.


I was in a coffee shop writing Wednesday’s post when the girl next to me sneezed.

“Bless you,” I said.

But I was premature as she then went *sneeze* *sneeze* *sneeze* *sneeze* *sneeze* *sneeze* *sneeze* in rapid succession.

“Whoa,” I said. “Do you always sneeze like that?”

“Every time!” she said. “It’s always eight.”

“I’m a two sneeze man, myself.” I said. “As was my father and his before him. On our family crest is a man sneezing twice.”

She laughed. “It’s funny how everyone has their set number.”

“There should be a dating site,” I said, “that matches you up based on how much you sneeze.”

She laughed again. “Would we be a good match? Or do we have to have the same number?”

“Oh no, we’re good,” I said, “You’re high and I’m low. So we balance each other out.”

“In-ter-est-ing…,” she said, tapping her pencil against her cheek.

A few minutes later she slid a piece of paper over with her phone number on it. “If you want to get together sometime and sneeze with me or something,” she said.

I said something clever like, “Uhm, ok. Sure!”

I was feeling pretty proud of myself. She was cute. I’m pretty competent at wrangling cute chicks, but I usually have to put in more of an effort. She seemed fun. Maybe she was the one! This was our meet-cute! And we’d have little stories the rest of our life about how if she hadn’t sneezed at that moment we never would have met. And I’d make her a Valentine’s Day card that said “Achoo-se You to Be My Valentine,” and all that sweet stuff.

And then some guy enters the coffee shop, comes over to the table and is like, “Hey, baby.” And he leans down and kisses her. They’re clearly a couple.

I gave her a look and she kind of swatted her hand in the air as if to say, “No, no. This is nothing.” So I’m not sure what to take away from that.

Oh well. I’ll keep you updated should love blossom.

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Hey, maybe there’s a trick in there. Like if you perform for larger audiences you could ask if there are any high quantity sneezers in the house, then you could intuit their sneeze number. Or the sum of a small group’s sneeze number.

Ah, who am I kidding. I’m just trying to salvage that interaction.